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by Mark Cheffey
A Palmyra native was selected as the first recipient of an award presented by Our Hidden Heroes, a local company dedicated to supporting and raising awareness of first responders.
The late John Lewis was selected to receive the first “Fallen Hidden Hero” award from Our Hidden Heroes, a new company formed in the Marion County area.
The award was presented to members of his family during a brief ceremony Wednesday at the Palmyra Fire Station, where he was a volunteer for many years.
In presenting the award, Jaykob Voepel said Lewis was one of many nominations for the honor, but that he was selected unanimously.
“John has definitely been an outstanding citizen and it would be hard to count the people’s lives he touched and helped throughout the years, and he definitely stood out from the ones we had chosen,” Voepel said.
There was hardly an aspect of public safety Lewis was not involved in his life abroad and his home area.
The U.S. Navy veteran served 12 years as a Palmyra volunteer fireman, was a dispatcher at Northeast Missouri Emergency Communications Center (NECOMM) 9-1-1 for eight years, and served at Marion County Ambulance District (MCAD) for five years.
Beyond those roles, Lewis was also the Palmyra Emergency management coordinator for a total of 12 years.
Voepel also paid tribute to Lewis as a friend and trusted colleague among first responders.
“Everybody knew John Lewis,” he said. “You could not ask for a nicer guy. He’d give you the shirt off of his back.
“He was always there, and at the drop of a hat, he was willing to help somebody.”
Lewis’ wife, Shelley, said she and other family members were glad of the award.
“I’m very touched,” Shelley Lewis said, noting that John would not have appreciated all the hoopla about himself.
“But, he put in a lot of time and a lot of love in it. And, I’m glad people saw that side of him.”
Also attending the ceremony were family members as well as representatives of all the first responder organizations Lewis was involved in.